Neighbor fearful in shooting aftermath

Photo by Scooter MacMillan
Police were at the scene of the shooting death of David Auclair at the LaPlatte Headwaters Town Forest trailhead on Gilman Road in Hinesburg July 11. There has been little new information in the case, but one neighbor is calling for the town to monitor and secure public spaces in town more diligently.

STAFF REPORT

Neighbors are rattled and one resident has put the Hinesburg Selectboard on notice following a homicide last week.

Police have not shared any new information one week after a man was shot to death in a trailhead parking lot in Hinesburg, but the shooting has prompted one resident to call for increased monitoring of public spaces in town.

Police said David Auclair, 45, of Williston, was killed after being shot multiple times in the parking lot of the LaPlatte Headwaters Town Forest trailhead on Gilman Road July 11.

The investigation began after Hinesburg Police responded to a report of multiple gunshots in the area of the trailhead parking lot around 10:40 p.m. Upon arrival, officers found Auclair dead near his vehicle, a gray 2017 GMC pickup truck.

On July 12, the coroner’s office confirmed the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds.

But resident Craig Chevrier lives right next to the trailhead parking lot and wrote a pointed letter to the Hinesburg Selectboard, stating that the area has been the site of suspicious activity since it was established eight years ago.

Chevrier posted his letter on Front Porch Forum as well.

“I live next door to the town forest parking lot where a murder occurred on the night of Thursday, July 11,” he wrote. “My front door is less than 350 feet from the scene of the crime, where at least 5 bullets were fired and could easily have struck my home or a person inside it.”

He said his 11 year-old son was looking out the window when the shots were fired and his wife was shaken up by the event,  “as are all the neighbors with children in the immediate neighborhood. At least 7 children under the age of 12 live within a quarter-mile of the parking lot. I, personally, am angry,” he wrote.

Chevrier’s family heard the gunshots, he said, and had heard them before, adding that out-of-state hunters frequently discharge their weapons in the parking lot.

“I wouldn’t say gunshots are frequent, but I wouldn’t say they’re rare,” Chevrier said in an interview Wednesday. In his letter, he said has personally observed later night dealings in the parking lot.

“Obviously, drug deals and other nefarious activities occur regularly in these rural, dark, unsecured spaces – thus endangering all neighbors of our public parks and trails,” he wrote, adding that the only leads the state police have are related to the use of any cell phones that may have been used the night of the murder via his home wireless network.

As of Wednesday, the Vermont State Police have not commented on the details of the investigation.

Chevrier then called on the Town of Hinesburg to secure and protect the town’s public spaces, demanding that the selectboard enact an ordinance requiring security at all Hinesburg’s public spaces, including securing and completely closing “all public parking lots to prevent such a crime from happening again, until it comes up with a permanent solution.” He suggested installing security cameras (and notification signs) for 24-hour video surveillance.

“That will end drug deals and other illegal activity in these lots, fulltime,” he wrote.

In addition, he asked that all parking lots that are unsecured or unmonitored, and that are within 500 yards of residences, be closed permanently.

“Failure to do one or more of the above will mean, certainly, that an innocent bystander will get killed by a criminal holding a gun with ill intent,” Chevrier wrote. “If I had confronted these people, I might likely be dead, too. If I had security cameras installed, they could have come looking for me to destroy the evidence.”

Hinesburg Selectboard Chair Phil Pouech said the issue has been put on the agenda for the July 18 selectboard meeting at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Pouech said in a phone interview Wednesday that he doesn’t recall many instances of parking lot issues in town.

“As far as I know, there hasn’t been any other issues at that parking lot, but I think it’s something we need to discuss,” he said.

Chevrier contends that the town has mismanaged the trailhead parking lot on Gilman Road since it was built in 2011.

“It’s not maintained, and has cost neighbors time and money correcting runoff and traffic issues and building very expensive fences to secure our pets and livestock from a town park that was created long after we all moved here,” he wrote. “And it’s now a public danger. It’s the Town’s responsibility to ensure this does not happen again.”

Hinesburg Police Chief Anthony Cambridge said in an interview Wednesday that he looked back over police calls and the department hasn’t handled a call regarding the trailhead parking lot since it was established in 2011.

“The area has never been a problem before, but if someone says it’s been a problem, we’ll certainly step up patrols to the area,” he said.

As for Chevier’s proposal to install security cameras in Hinesburg’s public spaces, Cambridge said he supports the idea, but is concerned about the reach of surveillance in such a rural area.

“I’m never against cameras,” he said, “but if we’re going to put one up in one of the most rural areas in Hinesburg, where would it end?”

Chevrier closed his letter saying the police should be focused on preventing violent crime, and putting the responsibility for protecting residents on the selectboard.

“Knowing it has the power to act but doing nothing puts the next killing squarely on your meeting table,” he wrote.

As of Wednesday morning, no new information had been released in the case. Vermont State Police have said they do not believe there is a threat to public safety.

Police are also asking anyone who may have heard gunshots or seen anything suspicious in the area of the trailhead on Thursday evening, or who may have seen Mr. Auclair or his GMC truck (Vermont registration 290A755) to contact them. Anyone with information is asked to call the state police Williston Barracks at 802-878-7111. Tips may also be submitted online at https://vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit.

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